Category Archives: Alumni

What tea can be

With the acquisition and integration of Teavana, Starbucks makes its biggest play to bring an elevated experience of tea to the world
Teavana, Annie Young-Scrivner
Annie Young-Scrivner of Teavana

Behind the elegant wooden counter, a wall of cylindrical tins rises to the ceiling in tidy vertical regiments of white, green, black, blue, purple, orange and red, like a color-coded apothecary shop.

Each contains a different mystery, an aroma, texture and hue as intriguing as the name of the product inside. The baby-powder jade of Imperial Matcha. The earthen rumples of Monkey Picked Oolong. The heady spices of Maharaja Chai. The grassy blades of Gyokuro Imperial. The tightly rolled nuggets of Black Dragon Pearl. The fruited potpourri of Pineapple Kona Pop. The gilded fronds of Silver Needle. And maybe 100 more unique expressions of leaf and bud, herb and fruit.

Infused in hot water, they produce a kind of alchemy—rich, distinctive flavors sought the world over for comfort, invigoration, goodness in a cup.

This is tea as it is meant to be. This is Teavana.

It’s also Starbucks. With its latest and largest acquisition, the Seattle company renowned for bringing a heightened coffee experience to consumers around the globe is looking to do much the same with tea.

“Teavana is in its infancy, and the $125 billion tea market is ripe for reinvention and innovation,” says Annie Young-Scrivner (BA 1990), the Starbucks executive vice president who has led the initial integration and innovation of Teavana. “We are well-positioned to take advantage of that growth, reimagining the tea experience in the United States and, over time, around the globe.”

Why tea?

When she got the call to lead Teavana early last year, Young-Scrivner was, likewise, well-positioned to catalyze its transformation into a global brand within a global brand. She came to Starbucks in 2009 after a sterling 20-year career at PepsiCo, where she led a number of its international businesses. At Starbucks she served as the company’s first global chief marketing officer, as president of Tazo Tea and as president of Starbucks Canada before taking on Teavana.

She loves tea.

“Growing up in a Chinese household, tea was everywhere,” says Young-Scrivner, who emigrated from Taiwan to Seattle when she was seven. “We drank it, cooked with it, used it as medicine. I truly believe in the magic of tea to naturally improve the lives of everyone in the world, in more flavors and in more ways imaginable.”

Teavana-looseleaf-teas-webIn this sentiment, she is hardly alone. Since a few legendary leaves of a Camelia sinensis tree first blew into a Chinese emperor’s boiling drinking water nearly 5,000 years ago, tea has become a treasured staple of cultures around the world, from China and Japan to the Middle East and North Africa, from India to Europe and, of course, the United Kingdom. Though the United States lacks a discernable tea tradition (perhaps a legacy of that famous patriotic act of civil disobedience in Boston Harbor back in 1773), Americans do, in fact, drink 800 million cups each week.

As a global market, tea is nearly boundless. The only beverage more consumed is water. And tea is gaining.

But potential alone isn’t what makes tea a good fit with Starbucks. It’s the complementary relationship between tea and coffee. Young-Scrivner says that the two fulfill different consumer “need states” and different “day parts.” In other words, the same people tend toward one beverage or the other at different times of day and for different reasons. Coffee to perk up (maybe in the morning or early afternoon), tea to calm down (late afternoon, say, and evening). For Starbucks, tea represents an opportunity to build a distinct brand in a category that isn’t coffee, and a way of increasing capacity in every store.

Why Teavana?

the-original-starbucksOf course, none of this is news to Starbucks. “We were founded as Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices,” reminds Young-Scrivner. “We’ve always been fascinated by tea.”

From its first day in business—Seattle’s Pike Place Market, 1971—Starbucks has served this alternative to coffee. Its 1999 purchase of Portland-based Tazo added a discernible line and more varieties of tea. But the 2012 acquisition of Teavana was a game changer, immediately elevating Starbucks to the upmost echelon of the tea industry.

Founded in Atlanta in 1997, Teavana has grown to more than 300 specialty retail stores located primarily in upscale shopping malls across the US and Canada. These compact emporiums sell a curated line of tea pots and accessories, made-to-order hot and cold beverages, and loose-leaf teas of the highest grade—a product that hardly resembles the sacks of desiccated filings that sometimes pass for tea.

Foster-Teacloseup-webAs Starbucks does with beans, Teavana sources only super premium tea leaves to be processed into the purest varieties of white, green, oolong and black teas, as well as endlessly creative herbal blends. “The acquisition of Teavana has given us tremendous expertise in tea—both a mastery of 5,000 years of tradition and these youthful epicurean blends that are so provocative in taste and profile,” says Young-Scrivner. “Plus, a national footprint in tea.”

On the other half of the equation, Starbucks brings a global supply chain, a wealth of digital assets, and deep expertise in branding in retail design. Plus, an international footprint of more than 22,000 stores across nearly 70 countries.

Through Teavana, Starbucks intends to make tea the biggest thing since, well, coffee.

The big infusion

First, the matter of integrating companies. Starbucks has plenty of experience, having previously acquired Tazo (tea) in 1999, Ethos (bottled water) in 2005, Evolution Fresh (juice) in 2011, and La Boulange (baked goods) in 2012.

But Teavana is the biggest, and perhaps the most essential to the company’s long-term growth. So respecting and protecting Teavana’s culture and heritage—so integral to its customer experience—has been of the utmost importance.

Teavana-teawall-webBeyond Young-Scrivner, two other Huskies have played a central role in this delicate integration.

On the quantitative side, Robert Herring (BA 1992) leads Teavana’s finance, accounting and business analytics departments. In addition to transporting finances and accounting into the Starbucks system, his team generates the financial intelligence that informs big-picture strategy.

“It takes a lot of knowledge about the structures of both organizations to do a successful integration,” Herring says. “And we need to stay nimble, and be able to execute changes quickly.”

On the qualitative side, Anna Hawk (BA 1990, economics) heads Teavana’s human resources department. A veteran of several integrations in her 23 years at Starbucks, Hawk’s team is responsible for helping to integrate several thousand Teavana partners (employees) into the Starbucks systems.

At a personal level, she says it’s a critical piece of the integration. “We take extraordinary care with our new partners as we bring them into the Starbucks family,” Hawk says. “It goes back to what (chairman and CEO) Howard Schultz has always believed: if you take care of your partners, they will take care of your customers.”

Lens of humanity

That sentiment reflects Starbucks’ perpetual promise to be “performance driven, through the lens of humanity.”

Principles in Practice

Teavana has been quick to embrace Starbucks’ guiding principles, including the one about making a positive impact on the world. One case in point: Teavana Oprah Chai. This unprecedented collaboration between chai tea devotee Oprah Winfrey and Teavana’s leading teaologists has been an enormous success. And, by donating 25 cents of each cup and each ounce of tea sold, Teavana Oprah Chai has raised more than $5 million for youth organizations in the United States and Canada, including Girls Inc., National CARES Mentoring Movement, Pathways to College, and the U.S. Dream Academy.

Oprah Chai Tea

“I get goosebumps thinking about it,” says Annie Young-Scrivner, who led the launch of Teavana Oprah Chai in April 2014. “It’s so cool that we can use our company’s scale to do good in the world. We want to be examples to other companies that you can do things like this and still be profitable.”

Though this philosophy had sustained the company’s growth from day one, it wasn’t until 1990, the year that Orin Smith (BA 1965) came in as CFO, that the famous Starbucks mission and guiding principles were codified. Pledges to create a workplace of respect and dignity, value diversity, source and serve the highest quality coffee, satisfy customers, and make a positive impact on the community and environment preceded—and really enabled, in the Starbucks way of thinking—the final principle of profitability.

“These statements are not so different than what you find at many other companies,” says Smith, who led Starbucks’ greatest era of expansion as president and CEO from 2000-2005. “But it wasn’t a few planners sitting in a back room thinking up words that sounded nice. This was really an explanation of who we were and what we wanted to continue to be as a company.”

Smith and the rest of the executive team resolved to endow this document with real power. They ingrained the principles in training programs, printed them on placards in stores and on the back of business cards, used them to shape every meeting agenda, referred back to them in every decision. “Those principles,” Smith says, “became as close to tangible as an idea can be.”

Before going public in 1992, Starbucks instituted health care benefits across the organization and began offering “Bean Stock,” an opportunity for each partner to become a shareholder in the company. It has long been a leader in ethical sourcing and diversity hiring. Its College Achievement Plan helps partners cover the cost of higher education. And it recently launched a campaign to hire military veterans across the organization.

The idea that a large public company could drive profitability by being socially responsible was considered radical. “I don’t think any of us were sure that we could sustain our growth—especially as we expanded into the world—while maintaining those principles,” Smith recalls. “What made it work was the culture that we created.”

Starbucks, 1992

That uncompromising culture—considered the corporate gold standard by many—becomes the foundation for the new Teavana. Young-Scrivner likes to remind her team that Teavana today is roughly where Starbucks was in 1992 in number of stores and partners. Great product, solid foundation, poised for exponential growth.

Teavana-tasting“The same core values drive both organizations,” says Jennifer Chang (MBA 2012), a product manager at Teavana. “We share our devotion to partners and customers, we source the highest quality product, and we push ourselves to be at the forefront of innovation.”

It starts with the tea. Like Starbucks, Teavana procures its raw material from the most expert growers, working with the Ethical Tea Partnership to ensure that it is produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

As with coffee beans, the care in sourcing shows up in the quality of tea leaves and other organic ingredients that make up Teavana’s teas and epicurean blends.

These textures and tastes are showcased in the Teavana tea bars recently opened in several cities, including Seattle, which provide a “third place” to meet and provide a deeper exploration of tea. And Seattle’s Pacific Place store is reinventing the specialty retail experience, with a full-service tea bar up front and a rich, if compact, tea journey inside.

These stores serve as learning labs for the reinvention of tea and the tea experience. This will prove important as Teavana looks to integrate into the vast constellation of Starbucks locations.

“Starbucks is very good at shaping markets,” says Suresh Kotha, a professor of management and the Olesen/Battelle Excellence Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Foster School. “If you have a distribution system and know how to leverage it, using existing stores is a great idea as opposed to building new Teavana stores from scratch.”

Integrate + innovate

Teavana-pumpkin_spice-webOver the past year, the Teavana team has integrated a line of Teavana hot teas, shaken iced teas and Oprah Chai in Starbucks stores across North America. The result? Tea has become Starbucks’ fastest growing in-store segment across the continent.

But Young-Scrivner says the real opportunity is global, the lands of tea and beyond. Teavana will be introduced in 2016 to Starbucks in China, Japan and other parts of Asia.

Bringing tea to regions with indelible tea cultures will be a real test of the concept. “When we go into tea-origin countries, we’ll go in really respecting the heritage,” Young-Scrivner says. “But we’ll not be afraid to reinvent.”

Kotha adds that any international expansion must overcome the “liability of foreignness.” In Teavana’s case, that unfamiliarity could also prove to be its greatest asset. Its target demographic is young people who care about what they consume and how it impacts the world, and who might be a bit less rigidly devoted to the old ways and flavors.

Robert Palmatier, research director of the Foster School’s Center for Sales and Marketing Strategy, says that Starbucks has proven its ability to expand markets with new twists on old tastes. “We call these product extensions, such as when Starbucks added Frappuccino to its lineup of traditional coffee drinks,” says Palmatier, a professor of marketing and the John C. Narver Endowed Professor in Business Administration. “And with so many varieties and flavors of tea, it might make for even better product extensions.”

In the same way that Starbucks convinced coffee drinkers in Taipei, Sao Paolo and Istanbul to try Frappuccino, Teavana’s epicurean blends, matcha lattes and whatever-they-come-up-with-next will be like nothing they’ve ever experienced in Shanghai, London, Tokyo and Dubai.

It comes down to exposure, to 70 million customers a week. “It’s an incredible opportunity to leverage Starbucks’ scale,” says Young-Scrivner. “If we are where Starbucks was 25 years ago, it should take us a lot less time to build the size and scale of Teavana.”

Progress and passion

Young-Scrivner has Teavana well on its way to its five-year goal of tripling Starbucks tea sales to $3 billion annually. After that, the sky’s the limit.

But Starbucks is a dynamic organization, and this fall she will transition to a new role leading the global expansion of the My Starbucks Rewards customer loyalty program.

Teavana-storeYoung-Scrivner will be the first to say that Teavana is bigger than her or any other individual. But there’s no doubt she leaves an outsize legacy, a shot of inspiration, an infusion of spirit.

“One word comes to mind when I think about why Annie has been so successful in moving us forward,” says Robert Herring. “Passion. She has an incredible passion for tea. And she has created a passion for tea in everyone on the Teavana team.”

Starbucks’ mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

It’s personal for Young-Scrivner.

“Life is short,” she says. “I believe that people should drink more tea. Really good tea.

“And that goes for coffee, too, by the way.”

Starbucks and Foster: Partners on every level

You’d have to search pretty hard to find a program or center or event at the Foster School of Business that isn’t connected to Starbucks in some important way.

Just scratching the surface, Starbucks provides financial support to Foster’s annual Business Leadership Celebration, Global Business Case Competition, Environmental Innovation Challenge, Sales Club, U Lead, Young Executives of Color and Diversity Services.

Starbucks executives serve as expert speakers, panelists, mentors, judges and advisors at Foster. They host student visits in Seattle and abroad.

The company hosted Foster’s first “Lunch and Learn” alumni event featuring a faculty expert on an on-demand topic. It provided a challenging case for last year’s MGMT 430 capstone case competition. And it regularly provides applied strategy projects for the MBA Strategic Consulting Program.

Starbucks is also a major source of meaningful internships and careers for students. It’s a top 10 employer of Foster undergrads and a top 5 employer of MBAs.

Orin's Place cafe

Last, but certainly not least, is the essential availability of Starbucks coffee and tea in Orin’s Place, the nerve center of PACCAR Hall that is named after former Starbucks CEO Orin Smith (BA 1965).

Why a Foster PhD: Hana Johnson, Organizational Behavior track

Guest post by Hana Johnson, 2015 graduate, UW PhD in Organizational Behavior.

First placement: University of Idaho
Current: University of Idaho

Hana JohnsonThe Foster School of Business PhD program in Management is recognized as one of the premier PhD programs in the world. In my experience as a PhD candidate, the program certainly lives up to that reputation. I have been deeply impressed by both the resources and facilities that the Foster PhD program provides to its professors and students. During my time there, I received not only excellent training on research and teaching, but also had ample opportunities to conduct high-quality research with colleagues and teach my own classes.

The professors at Foster held me to high academic standards: motivating and helping me understand the critical techniques and skills necessary for management research and education. They spent a tremendous amount of time and effort inspiring me to explore exciting research questions and guiding me through the journal publication process. Even after successfully graduating their students, the professors maintain a candid and life-long mentoring relationship. As a graduate, it has consistently been rewarding and stimulating to communicate with Foster professors as I continue to learn and grow through their advice and perspective-sharing.

In sum, the Foster School of Business PhD program promotes a unique educational environment for students to nurture their inner curiosity and pursue their academic dreams. It is the place where creativity and opportunity meet. I will always be thankful for everything that I gained by being associated with the Foster PhD program. Go Huskies!

Why a Foster PhD: Cristiano Guarana, Organizational Behavior track

Guest post by Cristiano Guarana, 2015 graduate, UW PhD in Organizational Behavior.

First placement: Darden Business School, University of Virginia
Current: Darden Business School, University of Virginia

Cristiano GuaranaJoining Foster School of Business as a doctoral student was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Seattle was the ideal place for my family. Professionally, Foster faculty is particularly attentive to your development. Personally, the Pacific Northwest is a great place to raise your family.

Developing doctoral students is a priority for faculty in the Management department. First, the Ph.D. program provides a good balance between theory and methods seminars. Through the theory seminars, I had innumerous opportunities to share ideas and get invaluable feedback that helped me broaden my research interests and deepen my theoretical knowledge. Through the methods seminars, I was exposed to different methodologies that helped me build my analytical skills. Second, faculty provides the support necessary for your success. For instance, I was assigned to a mentor who guided me through all my years at Foster. We have worked on multiple projects and the almost weekly meetings helped me develop my research stream. Third, faculty provides many opportunities for collaboration. I started working on research projects with my mentors, but gradually reached out to other faculty who were also developmental and supportive. Fourth, University of Washington psychology department is a wonderful resource and is open to all Ph.D. students. Prior to joining the Ph.D. I had no psychology background. The seminars on social psychology and personality helped me understand foundational theories that are critical for Organizational Behavior. Finally, other Ph.D. students are very respectful and talented. I felt safe to share my ideas and my colleagues’ comments’ were constructive and developmental.

The Pacific Northwest is fantastic! Coming from Brazil, Seattle seems a lit bit too far. However, the natural beauty more than compensate for the distance. That is the right place for you if you like the outdoors. Besides, Seattle is a vibrant city with great sport teams, theaters, museums, restaurants, and kids’ activities. My family took great advantage of the parks, lakes, and mountains.

There is no doubt that I made a great decision when I chose to earn my PhD at Foster and I certainly have no regrets. Go Huskies!

Share your story with the Consulting & Business Development Center!

This year the Consulting and Business Development Center is celebrating its 20th Anniversary!

save the date online

After two decades of serving the business community in the State of Washington, the Center has given generations of University of Washington Students the opportunity to work with hundreds of businesses, created thousands of jobs and helped generate millions of dollars in revenues. The Center has done all of this by connecting people and allowing them to have a hand in changing one another’s lives.

Now, as we celebrate 20 years of bringing learning that matters to students and creating jobs where they are needed the most, we want to hear your story!

This year leading up to our annual awards banquet we’d like to celebrate and share your stories and the difference you have made in the community through our social media (blog, website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter).  Some of your stories will be featured at the celebration through the printed program, in video production, and even shared onstage!

Share your story with us today! 

Keep an eye on our website for registration information coming soon or email Megan Sevigny at for more information about tickets and sponsorship opportunities!

Veterans way

A growing company of armed forces vets is choosing the Foster School to transition from military to corporate careers, and the benefits go both ways

Dan Boirum

Dan Boirum was leading a search-and-destroy operation up the remote Arghandab River valley of Afghanistan when a 100-pound improvised bomb exploded under his armored vehicle, wounding four crewmen, one critically.

The blast knocked Boirum unconscious. But he recovered to resume command of his US Army Stryker platoon and its mission: stabilize this volatile region at the front lines of the war on terror—a task that required a precarious balancing of military might and cultural diplomacy that is perhaps unprecedented in wartime history.

Today, just a few years removed from the dust and dangers of Kandahar Province, Boirum is back in his home town of Seattle, learning to manage in a very different context at the Foster School of Business. His combat experience and leadership credentials aren’t exactly typical at Foster. But he’s hardly alone, either.

In the past few years, a growing cohort of veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have come to Foster, looking to power their transition from military to corporate careers.

“I came to Foster hoping it would give me the ability to learn about the various aspects of business and then give me a path to a new career,” says Boirum, a first-year student in the Full-time MBA Program. “I didn’t come in with a plan. I came knowing that it would be a place where I could figure it out in a safe environment and with all the support I could possibly ask for.”

Back to school

Foster is part of a nationwide surge of military veterans flooding into colleges and universities to plot civilian careers. Recent troop withdrawals and military budget cuts are expected to send 1.5 million service members into the civilian workforce by 2019.

At the same time, the education benefits available to veterans and active duty military have never been better. The largest is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, books and housing costs.

“The GI Bill made all the difference to me,” adds Matthew Nutsch (TMMBA 2014), a recent graduate of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program who served in the Navy as an electrician on a nuclear-powered submarine and is now a senior management systems analyst at Seattle City Light . “It’s an amazingly good deal and the TMMBA Program is so dynamic that it would feel wasteful not to take advantage. The education has changed my life.”

Tony Casement, lead counselor at the University of Washington Veterans Center, says that’s a common sentiment: “Instead of getting out and trying to go straight to work, many military vets are taking advantage of the benefits to advance their education and enter the workforce with a better job.”

A great place to restart

It happens that one of the best places to advance that education is the UW. U.S. News & World Report named the UW second nationally in its 2015 ranking of Best Colleges for Veterans.

Casement believes the reasons for the ranking begin with proximity to multiple military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Whidbey Island, Kitsap and Everett Naval Bases. He also factors the university’s generous tuition waivers and other assistance for veterans; a proliferation of military student organizations; and a high-functioning Veterans Center that advises students, offers career counseling, and removes the pain of finding and applying benefits so veterans can focus on their studies.

The university’s sterling international reputation doesn’t hurt, either. “The UW is not only military friendly, but also a great name academically,” Casement adds. “It makes a lot of sense to go here.”

He says that more than 1,500 students at the Seattle campus are receiving some form of military benefit, which is transferrable to dependents. Of that number, around 700 are veterans or active duty service members. And nearly 80 of them are enrolled at the Foster School.

Finding Foster

Casement believes that business is a popular field of study for veterans because it opens doors to so many lines of civilian work, and because many of the management and leadership skills mastered in the military—especially by officers—are transferrable.

This may explain why the largest jump in military enrollment at Foster is occurring in the MBA programs. The Full-time MBA has seen a doubling of veterans and active duty officers in the past couple of years alone.

Why Foster? Start with its reputation and ranking in the upmost echelons of American b-schools. Add its personalized approach to teaching, advising and career services, plus its long tradition of assisting dramatic career transformations.

Norma Domingo and Chris Wigley

But the thing that seems to appeal most of all to military veterans is the school’s genuine culture of collaboration. “There is definitely a different culture at Foster,” says Chris Wigley, a second-year MBA who has compared notes with Army buddies studying in MBA programs across the country. “For me, the collaborative environment here has been enormously beneficial.”

It’s familiar territory for anyone who has served in any branch of the military where, as Boirum says, “everything is a collaboration.”

The full package

Collaboration goes both ways. And Foster veterans give as good as they get.

According to Dan Poston, assistant dean for masters programs at Foster, students with military backgrounds add immeasurably to the shared learning environment.

“We’re looking for classes with a diversity of perspectives,” he says. “Military students bring a facility with structure and organization to get things done. These are very positive traits to have in any team. Plus, they share their leadership training, both formally and informally.”

That training is the best in any business, according to Bruce Avolio, director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and author of multiple studies on military leadership.

“What you see in our military is what we expect from our leaders in business: authentic, ethical, adaptive, agile role models who focus on development and put collective interest above themselves,” Avolio says. “This comes from a program of training and development that exceeds any business organization in the US or likely on Earth.”

But leadership is not the only asset that veterans bring to the management classroom. Avolio adds that they offer wisdom from having dealt with the most difficult decisions in life. They are comfortable working in hostile environments and ambiguous situations. They have a deep sense of team and self-sacrifice. They appreciate the ultimate importance of ethics. And they bring a learning orientation that challenges others in a respectful way.

Brave new world

So why do they need a business degree? Part of the value is simply in the time and opportunity to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives—especially for people with little work experience or professional network outside of the service.

“It’s hard for military people to start over,” explains Norma Domingo, a former aircraft mechanic in the Navy now studying human resources management in Foster’s Undergraduate Program. “You’ve earned a rank and a name for yourself. But that doesn’t carry over to the civilian world. I’m the same as every other Foster undergrad. We’re all here to start something new.”

Beyond career discernment and the acquisition of technical knowledge in the business disciplines, many veterans use Foster to “demilitarize” themselves, as Ryan McCarthy puts it. “In the Army we wear our rank on our chest, so you always know a person’s level of authority,” says the former artillery officer now pursuing his Foster MBA. “Here in business school and in corporate America, you have to be persuasive without the rank.”

Transferring soft skills is only half the battle. The other half is translation. “Bragging about your accomplishments is frowned upon in the military,” says Wigley. “But when you interview with a company, that’s exactly what you have to do. When you’re not used to telling that story, it can come out raw and unrefined.”

Poston says that Foster’s program staffs and career services excel at helping veterans communicate the assets they bring to any organization: “We help with the meat and the message, framing their experience in a way that has relevance to a recruiter.”

Nested networks

Military and ex-military students at Foster report a kind of sixth sense (or is it radar?) for finding each other in class. Maybe it’s their age. Or something in the way they speak, or carry themselves. Whatever it is, the bond is inescapable, the product of a shared experience, whichever their flavor of military service.

Now Foster vets have a more formal place to find each other. The student-organized MBA Veterans Association is only a few years old, but it’s rapidly evolving from social club to network hub.

The current officers are working with undergraduate leaders to charter a BA chapter of the organization. They are advising prospective students, coordinating with the Husky United Military Veterans organization (HUMV) to create a mentor program, hosting career development and networking events, and connecting with military bases and area employers to develop a military-to-corporate pipeline.

“The MBA Program administrators talk about how we have a golden ticket as a student,” says Veterans Association president Wigley. “I think we have a second golden ticket as veterans. If you reach out to vets at all kinds of companies, they’re usually more than willing to help.”

An old habit that dies hard.

Dan Boirum describes the connection between veterans in familial terms. He recalls suiting up for an interview with Liberty Mutual when a couple of classmates stepped in to perform an informal class A uniform inspection—even swapping watches so he’d look sharper. “It was just an instinctive thing,” he says. “Your buddy is going into an important meeting, so we’ll look you over, straighten you up. There’s a definite brother/sisterhood here—all within the larger Foster family.”

Passion and purpose

That’s the ultimate expression of the Foster student experience.

Matt Pescador, an executive officer in his 20th year with the Navy, enrolled in Foster’s Executive MBA Program preparing for an eventual second career, ideally at a comparable level of seniority. What he’s found is the definition of a symbiotic relationship. And endless inspiration.

“I have deep experience in leadership, and the executives in my program bring a fast-paced technocracy that I’m not familiar with,” he says. “The relationship between what they learn from me and what I learn from them is exactly what the program is trying to foster.”

For Boirum, those relationships—with people from every background who share a genuine passion—are the keys to his transformation to a successful and meaningful civilian life.

“When you transition out of the military, one of the things you’re most concerned about is finding another place where you belong, where there is a shared sense of purpose to make the world a better place. I was afraid that I’d leave the Army and be lost,” he says. “But at the Foster School I’m surrounded by people who want to be part of something special together, something bigger than themselves. I never feel lost here.”

The version of this article that appears in the spring 2015 issue of Foster Business includes profiles of six additional Foster veterans.

Historic MBA class gift seeds Foster’s first student-run investment fund

Senior lecturer Lance Young and portfolio managers Brennen Ricks, Tristan Toomey, Aalok Shah and Brett Schulte.

Lance Young is not afraid to wield a sports metaphor when it’s warranted. And to describe the Foster School’s new MBA Investment Fund, his game of choice is baseball.

“It’s like AAA ball,” says the senior lecturer in finance who serves as faculty advisor for the nascent student-managed fund. “We play the game to the best of our ability the way it’s played by research and money management shops, applying all of the frameworks we learn here at Foster.”

That is to say, the school’s “minor league of investment management” is educational, but not academic. The fund is a serious venture led by portfolio managers and informed by research analysts, each following a disciplined and rigorous strategy.

And now, they have real money to invest.


That money originated with the Foster MBA Class of 2011 which dedicated its outgoing class gift toward creating a live investment fund for future students to manage as an indelible learning experience and a pipeline to the majors, so to speak.

“We wanted Foster to develop more opportunities for MBA students with an interest in finance, and also improve the competitive positioning of the school,” says ringleader Andrew Parcel (MBA 2011), now a vice president and private wealth advisor at Goldman Sachs. “This seemed like an obvious way to add a tool for recruiting students and improving the chances of finding work in the investment community.”

Under the guidance of Thomas Gilbert, assistant professor of finance, leaders of the MBA Finance Society began drawing up structure, policy and procedures for the fund. The subsequent MBA Classes of 2012 and 2014 dedicated all or parts of their graduation gifts to the initiative. Dean Jiambalvo added to the account.

And late last spring, well ahead of expectation, the fund reached its trigger point of $100,000. Go time.


With Gilbert away this year as a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, Young stepped in. And Tristan Toomey stepped up.

Toomey, this year’s Finance Society president, recruited fellow second-year MBAs Aalok Shah, Brennen Ricks and Brett Schulte to serve with him as portfolio managers. They “hired” 13 first-year students as research analysts and commenced building a boutique investment fund from the ground up.

This has required discipline and patience. Before a cent of capital was invested, the team established a viable organizational and spent most of the academic year systematically populating a massive matrix of market data that will become a library for future MBA fund managers.

This analysis trickles down from economy to industry to firm. “In the next stage we’re looking at particular companies that present real alpha because they’re doing something innovative that can provide positive returns in the long term,” Toomey says.

Young adds that the experience has been a de facto capstone of the entire Foster MBA experience.

“If you want to find alpha, you have to understand a company’s business better than the rest of the market does,” he says. “That takes an analytical capability that comes from all the disciplines we teach at Foster. Every one of those checkmarks on the matrix is a framework applied.”


This year’s portfolio managers have made their first investments of the fund—now over $300,000—just weeks before they graduate. “We knew that building continuity was the most important thing this year,” Toomey says.

The legacy will be both a working fund and a class outside the classroom—to be passed like a torch to future Foster MBAs of the finance persuasion.

“If we had done this in a theoretical setting, we could never achieve this level of reality and practical learning,” says Toomey.

“But because we have real money and report to real ‘shareholders,’ ” Young adds, “we have to follow a rock-solid investment thesis that makes sense and has the Foster brand on every trade.”

Dan Poston, assistant dean for graduate programs, notes that the fund, from concept to execution, is an exemplary collaboration between former, current and future Foster MBAs.

“As a sustainable, practical piece of the Foster education,” he says, “the way the fund mimics reality in its design and its management is a beautiful thing.”

Maybe even a grand slam.

A contrarian’s tale

“And then I ran out of money. That,” says Scott McAdams (MBA 1986), “was when I knew it was time to get serious about finding a job.”

Chris Ackerlund with Scott McAdams
Chris Ackerlund, recipient of the McAdams Wright Ragen, Inc. Endowed Scholarship, with Scott McAdams (MBA 1986).

A few months prior to running out of funds, McAdams had graduated from Cornell University with degree in mechanical engineering. The year was 1979. Jimmy Carter was president. McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal. The economy was in a lull and jobs were hard to get. Oil prices were high.

McAdams was fascinated by alternative energy and passionate about becoming a solar engineer, so, after graduating, he came west. First he drove to Colorado for some interviews. He then went to New Mexico. He stayed with some relatives and lined up some more interviews.

All of the interviews led him to the conclusion that jobs in the field were demanding PhDs. This conclusion coincided with running out of money. McAdams started to send out resumes further afield.

Hello, Scott. This is Boeing.

One of the resumes got him an interview with Boeing, which led to another. “Everything happened over the phone,” says McAdams. “They even hired me over the phone. It was as if they were thinking, ‘We need engineers and you passed muster.’”

He had never been to the Northwest, but accepted the job offer and drove to Seattle with everything he owned in January of 1980.

McAdams found Boeing to be an incredible company, but a bit stifling. “If you were young and ambitious at that time—and I was—it wasn’t a great place to be. There were guys who had been there for 20 to 30 years and they weren’t going anywhere,” says McAdams. “It just wasn’t moving fast enough for me.”

McAdams sought other work, but found it hard to find. He believes a good part of it was a prevailing attitude in the area at the time of Boeing engineers. “There was an unspoken mark against you if you worked at Boeing, if you were part of the ‘lazy B,’ as many people called it.”

A well placed bet

McAdams decided to pursue an MBA and applied to a number of schools. With acceptance letters in hand, and a desire to stay in Seattle, he made his choice. “At the time, Seattle was a provincial enough economy that if you wanted to work in the Northwest you were better off going to school in the Northwest. So I did,” says McAdams. “It was the bet I made and it worked out.”

Once he was in school, the decision to pursue finance as a concentration was easy. “As my wife reminds me, even at Boeing I would read the WSJ everyday cover to cover. Even as an engineer, I wanted to be a stock analyst.”

At the time, there weren’t many investment firms in Seattle. He interned with Foster & Marshall (where he met both Michael and A.O. Foster). Upon graduating, he went to work for Cable, Howse & Ragen as a junior analyst.

“My starting salary was half what I had been making as an engineer two years before. But at the time, the finance community was so small and if you wanted to get your foot in the door, you started at the ground floor,” says McAdams. “I was so excited to have the job, it didn’t matter.”

The early days provided some lessons that couldn’t be taught in school, even by Karma Hadjimikilakis and Bill Alberts, his favorite professors in the program. He learned a lot, but didn’t realize the courage it would take.

“It’s something you have to experience and it’s brutal. Classic problem you run into: a stock drops 50%, you do your analysis and think it must be the bottom, so you build a position. Then you realize it’s not the bottom when it drops another 50% and it turns out your assumption wasn’t accurate. And you’re faced with a big decision–do you double up or sell and take the loss? When you’re in this business and you come in in the morning and one of your stocks has done that, it’ll be the worst 24 hours of your life.”

Youre all fired

Within a couple of years, he returned to work at Foster Marshall, a subsidiary of Shearson American Express at time, but which still had a local research staff led by John Mackenzie.

“Shearson Lehman had a huge research department in New York, which was being led by Peter Cohen, and they didn’t really need us in Seattle. And unlike the team in New York, we were practicing contrarian value based investing,” says McAdams.

In 1988, the differences in investing approach came to a head. The New York research department was recommending the sale of a particular security. The Seattle office was recommending a buy on the same security. “Someone must have marched into Peter’s office and said, ‘What are these guys doing in Seattle? They’re confusing the clients.’ He called us that day and fired the whole department.”

According to the Seattle Times, that same year, Tom Cable and Elwood “Woody” Howse “decided to focus exclusively on their Bellevue-based venture-capital firm, investing in new, cash-hungry companies.” That provided an opening for John Mackenzie, with his small team of recently laid-off analysts, to approach Brooks Ragen. Ragen MacKenzie, formed in 1988, prospered and grew becoming a dominant regional firm in the Northwest.   The firm was eventually sold to Wells Fargo in 2000, which later folded the operation into its larger brokerage unit.

We need a name

In late spring of 1998, Ragen made a call to McAdams. He wanted to start another firm.

“At the time, Brooks was in his 60s,” recalls McAdams. “He said, ‘I’ll supply the capital, my name and contacts, and you do all the work.’ ”

The men pulled a staff together and found a location, but ran into a dilemma prior to opening their doors. They were in need of a name. “Because of the terms with our prior firm, we couldn’t use our names together. It sounded too much like Ragen Mackenzie,” says McAdams. “We needed another name.”

They wanted to find someone with a name that meant something in Seattle. At the last hour, the duo asked Bagley Wright if they could include his name. Wright was well known as a real estate developer as well as a philanthropist and patron of the arts. He agreed to lend his name and became a shareholder and a member of the board.

Contrarian value investing

“Contrarian value based investing tends to work because it isn’t used very often,” says McAdams. “It’s about buying when companies are down and out and no one else wants them. You’re looking for the intrinsic value and trying to guess what Wall Street is thinking. Practiced with discipline it tends to be, on a risk adjusted basis, a good way to manage retail money.”

He is quick to note that the approach is not going to make a 20-something a millionaire, but for someone with a million dollars in their 60s it’s a good way to protect it and make some money.

“There’s always been this little enclave of people in the northwest that believe in this type of investing,” says McAdams. That little enclave helped McAdams Wright Ragen become a big success. The firm experienced 15 straight years of growth of approximately 20% every year.

During that fifteenth year of growth, McAdams along with his partners and staff decided to celebrate in a unique fashion. Rather than throw a lavish party, they endowed a scholarship at the Foster School, the educational institution that educated many of them, to create a means by which to encourage students to pursue a finance career. Of equal importance to McAdams and his partners was the desire to contribute to the most vulnerable parts of the community by designating the scholarship for students affiliated with the university’s Educational Opportunity Program.

The closing bell

As the firm celebrated their fifteenth year of business and growth, they were approached by Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co. with an offer to buy the firm.

“Brooks and I decided that if we were ever going to sell, the firm would have to be of high caliber and high integrity,” says McAdams. ”Unfortunately on Wall Street, there is a shortage of those things. We were particular and Baird passed the test. We worked with them to understand the values of our firm and our clients. It made sense and it made a return for our shareholders.”

McAdams notes that notifying clients was hard, particularly because most were with the firm because they shared a world view and values.

As for life after the acquisition? McAdams and his wife have been traveling, enjoying hobbies and catching up on long neglected projects. “I’m probably at a stage where being on boards might make the best use of my experience, says McAdams. “I‘m not currently enthused about being another CEO, but I wouldn’t rule it out if something really disruptive came around.”

Perhaps there’s a firm out there in need of a name.

Taste of Foster: The Business of Wine

Taste of Foster panelists
From left to right: John Blair (Dunham Cellars), Angela Jacobs (WineGirl Wines), Bryan Maletis (Fat Cork), and Paul Zitarelli (Full Pull Wines)

Whether it’s tech, aerospace, or retail, Foster alums are often at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship. And in Washington’s wine industry, things are no different. With a focus on the business side of winemaking, the second annual Taste of Foster played host to a panel of four Foster alumni making waves in the burgeoning Pacific Northwest wine scene. Facilitated by Full Pull Wines owner/wine blogger Paul Zitarelli (MBA 2009), the panel included John Blair (MBA 2011), General Manager for Dunham Cellars, Angela Jacobs (MBA 2010), owner and winemaker for WineGirl Wines, and Bryan Maletis (EMBA 2010), owner of Fat Cork. Over the course of the evening, event attendees got to know a bit more about the panelists, their products, and their views on Washington’s growing wine industry. Below are a few highlights from the discussion.

Why do you think MBA’s aren’t well represented in the wine industry?
For John Blair, size is the issue. “A lot of wineries can’t afford to hire an MBA…I see that changing.” Bryan Maletis agreed with John, stating, “The big companies are getting bigger and there are more small startups. The big companies will be hiring MBAs.” Maletis also argued that more flexibility in state law will positively effect the number of MBAs in the wine business, especially when it comes to creating more direct-to-consumer experiences.

What are some misconceptions about the wine industry?
Be wary of over-romanticizing vineyard life says Angela Jacobs. “Living on a vineyard sounds fantastic,” she quipped, “but there’s frost in the winter and bugs in the summer. It’s amazing and rewarding but it’s not easy.” For John, it’s important to remember that a product is being sold. “It’s still a business,” he said, “a competitive business. I tell people when they go out to the grocery store that there isn’t a shelf more competitive that wine.”

Taste of Foster attendees

Advice for someone interested in getting involved in the wine industry?
Bryan advises those looking for a well-rounded sense of the wine business to set up informational interviews. “The most successful candidates ask to be connected with more people.” Drawing from his own experiences, Paul agreed, stating, “I definitely asked for more informational interviews.”

Looking toward the future, where do you see the Washington industry?
Pointing to the recent purchase of Columbia Winery by a California distributor and the success of Woodinville’s Chateau St. Michelle, John responded, “I think the sky’s the limit.” Angela agreed, stating, “Our market is not even close to saturation. It makes it possible for people like me to start a small winery.”

How do you maintain the balance between the heart and business of wine?
“I don’t think there is a balance,” said Jacobs semi-jokingly. “It’s an art, a science, and a business.”

See more photos of Taste of Foster: The Business of Wine on the Foster GOLD Facebook page. To be notified of upcoming alumni events, be sure to subscribe to the Foster Alumni event calendar.

Celebrating 45 years of Executive Development

On Thursday, March 5, 2015, the Executive Development Program (EDP) at the Foster School of Business celebrated 45 years of advanced business education. Alumni representing over 40 organizations attended the event, from established companies like Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Boeing, to numerous startups created by Seattle entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1970, under the name “The Management Program,” EDP is designed to help individuals improve their understanding of the big picture of business. The program begins and ends with strategy and touches on every aspect of business in between. “It tells you how all these things fit together,” said Professor Charles Hill.

At the event, Dean Jim Jiambalvo talked about how the program had a major impact on the Foster school, specifically the quality of the faculty. “Executives have a higher standard, and they drove us to meet those standards,” Jiambalvo said. Often, executives enrolled in EDP want to know how to immediately apply what they just learned. “It impacted my teaching for a long time,” said Jiambalvo.

Bill Ayer discusses leadershipBill Ayer, former Alaska Airlines CEO and a long supporter of the Foster School, provided a keynote address on leadership, sharing numerous lessons and pieces of advice as he talked about his experience in a challenging industry. Among the numerous takeaways of the speech, Ayer discussed the primacy of the customer, as well as the importance of decisive action: “The perfect plan will never be perfect,” he said.

Over the course of the keynote, Ayer listed eight lessons he wanted to pass on to other executives:

  1. Get the right people on board
  2. Create a sense of urgency
  3. Focus on one to two big ideas at a time
  4. Always have metrics, what you measure is what gets done
  5. Focus on what you can control over the long-term
  6. Be totally and completely customer focused
  7. Don’t confuse being popular with doing the right thing
  8. Develop strategic partnerships

Mamtha Banerjee shares her experienceThe evening ended with an invitation for EDP alumni to share their experiences about the program. One alumna, Mamtha Banerjee, founder and CEO of MagicFlix, talked about how EDP helped her become more than a technical expert, giving her the business skills to take part in strategy and decision making. “The best part was really the case studies—getting everyone’s point of view from different industries,” Banerjee said.

Working abroad leads to freedom in the job market

Guest post by Nathan Bright (BA 2014)

Nathan Bright at the University of ManizalesMy name is Nathan Bright and I graduated from the Foster School and the CISB Program in March 2014 with a general business degree and Spanish minor. During my time at UW, I was able to study abroad in Spain and travel around Asia, so I knew when I graduated I wanted to find opportunities to work abroad and travel. I was lucky enough to be offered a position in Spain teaching English as well as a position in Colombia working at a university teaching business. I chose to move to South America because I wanted to experience a new country and continent and was excited about the opportunity to teach business and speak Spanish at work.

My original contract at the University of Manizales was for six months, but my coworkers and bosses were so happy to have me that I was able to extend my contract to a year. One thing I really enjoy about the job is the amount of freedom I have to design my own projects and work with professors to develop programs that are interesting to both the faculty and students. I also have the opportunity to speak English and Spanish while teaching business courses and work with students and professors in class and outside of the University during separately organized events. Working abroad has given me much more freedom in the job market because I would have never had the opportunity to be a professor or design my own projects if I had found a similar entry-level position in the US.

The CISB Program did a great job preparing me for this opportunity. We studied a wide variety of cultural experiences and had a lot of opportunities to work in real-life business contexts, which gave me the skills and knowledge required to live and work in a foreign country.

Because companies in other countries are often excited to have the opportunity to work with foreigners who are passionate and well-educated, there are plenty of ways to enter the job market in a different country. If you wish to contact me about my experiences abroad, email me at natebright01(at)